Ishant Sharma is the typical, jovial Derry lad from Patel Nagar who is easy to deal with if the captain wants to come off the bench.But somewhere, deep inside, when Virat Kohli Would have conveyed his fate in Cape Town and the experienced striker would have been hurt.
Now, with three consecutive Test appearances, Ishant has gone from the veteran, seasoned leader of India’s much-vaunted rhythm pack to the fifth-ranked front-line bowler, even below Mohammed Siraj in the pecking order and Umesh Yadav.
Siraj’s injury should have paved the way for Ishant’s return to the XI squad and hopefully India will learn from their defeat at Jo’burg and bring back their controllers.Instead, team management prefers to add an additional executor in Umesh to add to what has been done by Shardul Thakur and Mohammed Shami and Jasplit Bangla.
This is a clearly high risk, isn’t it? With Umesh and Thakur’s stability prone to error, who will India turn to when they need to control the scoring and need some timely rest for Shami and Bumrah between their spells?
Ishant’s absence was only highlighted by how it was a draw in the final innings at Jo’burg this time around. The exact opposite of the 2018 Test in the field, India lacked their tall, stable right arm to close quickly and then the team’s more likely wicket-taker enjoyed the batsman he set for them under constant pressure, indecisive thought processes and confusion footwork. Ishant took just two wickets but was conceded over 16 for his 31 runs, including three girls. India eventually defended their 241-run goal with 63 runs.
But aside from the tactical merits of India’s decision, there are fears that they will start to completely overtake Ishant Sharma after two years of constant injury struggles.Allah Buffneshwar Kumar.
India cannot give up on Ishant Sharma
The rapidity of change in Indian cricket is puzzling. When Ishant finished 2019 with 105 Test wickets of 24.45 over the past four years, transforming himself from a workhorse used for dirty work into a deadlier and more powerful cross-condition wicket threat, he Wouldn’t imagine his period is about to enter.
He competed in the Ranji Trophy in January 2020 with an ankle injury. Initially touted as unfit for the New Zealand Tour, he was declared fit for a two-match series in the NCA. Ishant scored five in Wellington’s early 2020 win over India to clear up doubts about his readiness for a comeback. But then he missed the next test due to a recurring ankle problem. The pandemic came and robbed him of eight months of cricket, before a side effect during the IPL took its toll and forced him out of the Australia tour.
Ethant has four home Tests against Turner at the start of 2021 and two more in England, during which he hit his only really bad spell in the entire phase at Headingley, which he did in November. He injured his finger in a home Test at home, and he is here today, test after test on a surface designed for his boom in South Africa. Ishant’s body let him down when he was most ready to put his skilled avatar to work.
Life isn’t always fair to the good guys, but you’d think Ishant Sharma deserved a better end for what he’s done for Indian cricket as the sole survivor of a disastrous 8-0.
It’s not absolutely unfair for India to leave him, as Ishant looks cautious in some spells at this stage. But historically, bowlers have struggled with the impact of injury every time they return to the wing.
Since the start of 2020, Ishant has taken 19 wickets at 28.10 – which is still good – but on a related note, the 33-year-old fast player is averaging just under 13 runs per innings. It’s simply not good enough for someone who only plays one format and endures long, sustained periods of overcoming injuries and going through rehab.
A fast bowler’s body needs more pitching, and the only way to do it is to hit the ball. Test cricket is Ishant’s only rebuilding venue at a time when the Ranji Trophy is not being held and travel restrictions are also hampering county deals.
Ultimately, India cannot lose him. Not now he has more than 100 Tests and 300 wickets and is more adept than ever with wickets. When he was only 33, young players, including Siraj, were not well prepared for the tough training at Test level. For Ishant Sharma, it was impossible. He needs trust, patience, more opportunities and more opportunities. Not that now should be a red flag for a thriving career, not a finished one.
Last time, an Indian bowler, battling injury and looking like he disappeared from the field, shrugged off the doom and gloom that others pitched around him like a champion and proved his naysayers wrong. One wicket at a time.